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August 1, 2012

Reference: athletic body diversity
Posted by Teresa at 11:27 PM *

Reference: athletic body diversity.

Comments on Reference: athletic body diversity:
#1 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2012, 11:39 PM:

I'm amused by how many of those women are standing with pointed toes, as if they were wearing invisible high heels.

#2 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 12:03 AM:

I recall a picture soemwhere on the web of two twin brothers who were both Olympic athletes, one in long-distance running, one in some strength-related event. And the two mens' bodies looked massively different.

There are different body types that are optimal for different sports (the ideal basketball player body probably won't do you much good as a gymnast), and there are also effects of practicing a sport on your body type. At the extreme end (like Olympic or professional sports), you almost have to have something close to the optimal body type for the sport. You *can* be a 5'8" NBA player, but there sure aren't many of them.

#3 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 02:37 AM:

Interesting to note that most sports don't apparently require the "condom full of walnuts" physique which is so popular with comic book artists. Oddly enough, the two which seem to require it most are bodybuilding (hardly surprising) and sprint running. Marathon runners, by contrast, appear to be almost pared down to skeletal proportions - possibly in order to minimise the amount they have to carry those 42km.

Oh, another thought: distinctive musculature, as much as distinctive looks, might be a hindrance for superheroic types if they were attempting to go incognito. After all, if you have the same physique as Captain Amazing and you vanish at the same time he appears, and your voices sound much the same - another thing which doesn't get addressed much - then folks are going to start putting two and two together... unless, of course, one of Captain Amazing's amazing powers is the ability to make people forget to think anywhere near him. Which, come to think about it, might explain a lot about superhero comics.

#4 ::: Megpie71 is feeding the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 02:38 AM:

Are ANZAC biscuits suitable, or would you prefer Tim-Tams?

#5 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 03:10 AM:

Surely it's Tim Tams all the way?

#6 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 03:10 AM:

Avram @#1: That was my thought as well, but then I wondered if it might in some cases be them showing off the strength of their feet--e.g. gymnasts. I don't know enough about the sports in question to really tell, though.

#7 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 07:28 AM:

Look at the sport where women are "standing in invisible high heels". It's generally gymnastics or figure skating, both of which often involve some ballet training.

They're not standing in invisible high heels, they're posing in demi-pointe. This takes a fair bit of strength. It also tends to create the appearance of a more curvy leg, which tends to distract from the fact that gymnasts and figure skaters tend to be built like ballerinas.

I'd rather focus on the wow, strong part tho :).

If you look very closely, one of the rhythm gymnasts appears to be standing en pointe without the aid of toe shoes. Ow ow ow! I do not want to know how long she held that pose.

#8 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 07:43 AM:

Megpie71 @3: Marathon runners, by contrast, appear to be almost pared down to skeletal proportions - possibly in order to minimise the amount they have to carry those 42km. Well, yes. I recently moved up to ultra-running (longer than marathon). You really don't want to carry more than you need to at those distances. I'm not exactly fat (5 ft 2 (1.52 m), 49 kg = 7 st 10lb = 108 lb) and I'm pretty sure the extra kilo I'm carrying compared to a few months ago is extra muscle, not extra fat (I can see I've got more leg muscle than I used to have), but I'm still wishing I could shed just a couple of pounds (a kilo or so) of fat in the 10 days between now and my first 50-mile race, to have that much less to carry. I can't, and I'm not going to try, but I -would - like to get rid of it in the near future, before my next race.

Having said which, there -are- some ultra runners who look like rugby players.

Avram @1: Since they've been asked to pose, they may also have been requested to take a specific pose? The foot positions do make sense for showing off foot strength for the gymnasts.

#9 ::: dcb has been Gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Possibly due to mentioning w**ght l*ss? How about some nice healthy pumpkin seed and raisin mix? Or chocolate?

#10 ::: iliadawry ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 08:18 AM:

Megpie71 @3: "Condom full of walnuts" is an absolutely perfect descriptor for that phenomenon. How would you like to be credited when I use it in the future? I mean, I laughed so hard my cats think you're ridiculous for causing it. It will get used. Frequently.

Torrilin @7: I saw the gymnast standing en pointe and my feet ached until I hid them under a cat (hard to do after my laughing at comment 3). That just hurts. Though yes, I did notice how many of the women standing that way were gymnasts of some sort and figure skaters. I think it's interesting, about their training, with which I am not very familiar.

#11 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 09:39 AM:

iliadawry @ #10:

"Condom full of walnuts" originates with Meg's and my fellow-countryman, the Australian polymath and cultural commentator Clive James, who famously used it to describe the then-newly-famous Arnold Schwarzenegger.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 09:51 AM:

My height/weight puts me closest, according to the BBC, to Bokyung Kim of the South Korean football team, British rower Chris Bartley, and Liechtensteinian swimmer Julia Hassler. As I've never been coördinated enough for the latter two sports, I might make it in the first if every better player suddenly developed cramp.

#13 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 10:11 AM:

#7 ::: Torrilin

I used to curl my toes under and walk on them when I was a child - like one of the gymnasts was doing. I could also drop into the splits at a moment's notice. I suspect going en pointe is not that hard or painful if you're 1) flexible and 2) have good muscle control. And it goes without saying 3) as light as you can be.

Although, I will note that extreme flexibility can be a bad thing if you let your muscle tone go as I've learned to my chagrin. One pulled muscle is enough, thank you.

#14 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 10:21 AM:

I saw a closeup picture the other day of a female gymnast on the balance beam, with her feet across rather than along the beam. Her toes were tightly curled, essentially holding onto the beam. It made me think about some balance beam moves in a whole new way.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:11 AM:

Avram, standing balanced on pointed toes like that is a gymnast and dancer thing. Jessica Howard, the woman in panel 12 who's standing en pointe in her bare feet, with one arm folded behind her back, is definitely showing off her strength, flexibility, and line. Here she is in action.

Megpie, what I find maddening is that they give that bodybuilder physique to superheroes whose powers have nothing to do with muscles. There's no reason Green Lantern couldn't be some old guy who plays blues piano.

Some of my favorite photos in the set: the pair of basketball players in the first panel; the set of three synchronized swimmers in panel 18, who could have come off a fresco in Herculaneum, and who look as perilous as Olympic goddesses; David Zhuang in panel 5, who clearly likes looking dangerous; panel 16, where Tara Lipinski is posed between Daron Rahlves and Patrik Elias; and panels 4, 10, and 12, which are a standing reproach to comic artists who draw all women the same way.

#16 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:19 AM:

Megpie71 @3: I was thinking while watching the lower-end-weight-classes (smaller-bodied/shorter lifters) that several of the men and the women would make really good body reference for superheroes. Oscar Figueroa Mosquera of Bolivia, for example, I can't find any good full-body just-walking-around shots (this is closest), but he's VISIBLY muscular in his spandex suit without looking like Rob Liefeld drew him.

#17 ::: Elliott Mason is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:19 AM:

Probably for a link.

#18 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:31 AM:

Teresa @ 25... There's no reason Green Lantern couldn't be some old guy who plays blues piano

"Nobody gets out without singin' the Blues!"

#19 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:55 AM:

A weird thing about Elliott's current visit to the gnomes: His en-gnomed post isn't visible in the thread yet, but it's on the Recent Comments list. Clicking that link just goes to the top of the thread.

#20 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 11:57 AM:

And now Elliott's post is visible at #16, and all is right with the world. That was still weird, though.

#21 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 01:22 PM:

Victoria @13, yeah, I did too as a little girl. Well, the en pointe part, not so much the splits. I'm still really rubbery, but I have a rotated right hip and it's probably for the best that I never tried to push too hard on that joint without the full strength necessary to protect it.

Still, holding a position for the length of a dance or a quick snapshot can be another thing entirely from holding it for a portrait. Some portrait photographers will plan on multi hour sessions... with breaks and different poses, but still, depending on how the photographer worked that could have been very grueling. Or it could have been a 10s lucky shot... either way, it is still an impressive feat of strength that takes a lot of training to do at the level she does.

Theresa, thank you for that video link. I'd not seen that particular style of gymnastics before, and it was amazing :D.

#22 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 01:59 PM:

The old guy is a Blues Lantern.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 02:40 PM:

Torrilin @7 I counted eleven women standing with their toes pointed in some way. Four of them were listed as gymnasts of some type, five weren't (bodybuilding, adventure racing, long-distance running, sport aerobics, hammer throw), and two had no sport listed, but one of those was obviously part of an ice-skating duo. I don't suppose there's any law keeping a hammer thrower or a bicyclist from having had ballet training at some point.

At least one guy was also standing that way! (The sprinter in photo #8.)

The thing that made it stand out for me is how often I see female superheroes drawn with their toes pointed, even if they're not wearing heels.

#24 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 03:05 PM:

At least none of the women are in the boobs-and-butt pose.

#25 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 04:20 PM:

Avram @23--when you tighten the calf muscles, some pointing of the toe is likely to occur because the contraction of the Achilles tendon will draw up the back of the foot. One of the standard sets of exercises in weight training to develop the calf muscles involves standing on something so that only the front part of the foot is supported; the heel will move up and down as the exercises are performed. As women are often more flexible than men, this effect may be more marked among female athletes. Ballet training, of course, will exaggerate this, as well as making a pointed foot a default position in sports where ballet training has had a significant impact (gymnastics, ice skating, diving, among others.)

#26 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 06:20 PM:

Megpie @#3

Well Clark Kent at least has the excuse of having grown up on a farm: "No really, Lois, I got these shoulders from years of manual labor."

#27 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 07:18 PM:

6' 2", as a marathon runner I weighed 155lb, as a triathlete, 165lb. I like to think it's upper-body muscle but the fact of the matter is it's more likely to be age-related fatty degeneration.. pfui.
Many of the exercises for Achilles rehabilitation require my fat-breathless-middle-aged-man imitation of demi-pointe, which gives one an entirely new appreciation for the women doing it..

dcb - yes indeed, ultrarunners fit no pattern, good ones are often quite large and strong. I knew one who used to train carrying a brick in each hand, said they were also useful for seeing off aggressive dogs.

#28 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 08:06 PM:

There's no reason Green Lantern couldn't be some old guy who plays blues piano.

That would be a much better story, actually.

#29 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 08:29 PM:

Doug K @27: exercises for Achilles rehabilitation

!!!??? Say more about this, please? I've been having a hell of a time with my Achilles tendons for the last coupla years, and RICE was about the best my doctor could come up with. It's bad enough that browsing in a store for as much as half an hour can get really uncomfortable.

#30 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2012, 09:03 PM:

rea @ 28... Teresa's comment remminded me it's been too long since I've watched "Mystery Men".

#31 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 02:36 AM:

Jacque @29: tendon too short or too long, or other? if it's too short, i wonder if those wheely shoes (if available in adult sizes) would help give you a lengthening activity.

the standard calf/achilles exercise is to stand on something shaped like a curb with your toes on and your heels hanging over the edge. try to drop your heels below the top surface to stretch the tendon; then stand on your toes to shorten the tendon. keep doing it until you run out of calf muscle.

#32 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 05:12 AM:

I wonder why so many weightlifters are obese. Is it just a case of having a thin body not being required for the sport or does it actually give them an advantage of some kind?

#33 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 06:45 AM:

Daniel @32: Adding or maintaining muscle mass takes an enormous input of calories. It's nearly impossible to add muscle while losing fat* while it's much easier to add both than to just add muscle. Maintaining the absolutely enormous mass required to be, say, a World's Strongest Man competitor requires, well, maintaining enormous mass.

If all you want is to be very, very strong, then you will probably also be kind of fat. Look at extreme strength competitors, American Football linemen, and sumo wrestlers - these are athletes whose main goal is to be as strong as possible, and all of them are fat dudes.

That's also the biggest challenge with bodybuilding - you want to add muscle but not fat. Typically you do that by sticking to a very strict diet which skews the added weight to muscle. You still gain fat, though, which means you need to go through about six months of "cutting" - losing fat while losing as little muscle as possible - before a competition.

Bodybuilders are also much weaker than weightlifters at the same body mass, especially at competitions, because of the way they train and the requirement to lose weight for shows.

*This isn't true of people who are out of shape/never done significant resistance training, however, which is why a lot of people see nice results the first few months of weightlifting/bodybuilding and then plateau.

#34 ::: Dave Fried ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 06:51 AM:

I should add that vigorous physical activity like that done by weightlifters, linemen, and sumo wrestlers causes the body to store fat differently than it would otherwise. More of the fat is stored subcutaneously rather than viscerally, and it causes far fewer health problems. So while many strength-based athletes carry a large amount of body fat, their activity level and relative lack of visceral fat makes them much healthier than an average Joe carrying that much weight.

The problem is that when the athlete retires, if they do not lose the weight, the fat redistributes and they end up being just really obese, unhealthy old dudes. A lot of them do lose weight because they're not eating the 10,000 calories a day they did when they were competing (eating that much is a lot of work), but some don't and they have the same health problems everyone else does.

#35 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 06:57 AM:

@32 - Daniel Klein

Muscle and fat are different things and for non endurance things there's not that much harm of carrying around some extra fat when it comes to what your muscles can do.

Also getting rid of fat also gets rid of muscle.

Bodybuilders who want to both have low fat and a ton of muscle end up going through cycles of gaining fat to gain muscle and then dieting down the fat while trying to keep as much muscle as they can. Then gain fat and muscle again to try to make up for the muscle they lost and then diet and dehydrate themselves back again.

That sort of messing around with your body is actually pretty unhealthy and you usually get more pure strength capability by just getting rid of the "get rid of the fat and some of the muscle" stage.

I wouldn't call them obese though, most of the bulk is muscle, there's just enough of a layer of fat on top to blur out the muscle definition which is pretty normal really

#36 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 09:51 AM:

The BBC has on its website a very interesting page which will match you with your closest Olympic body double.

At 5' 9.5", 237 lbs., I am apparently most nearly a match for Lijiao Gong, a female shot putter from China.

#37 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 10:11 AM:

My closest match is a lady on the GB swim team. (and swimming IS the only sport I can do.) My husband's closest matches are two wrestlers.

#38 ::: MaryL ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 11:04 AM:

Elliott Mason @16: You mentioned walking around and Rob Liefeld in the same sentence. I shall restrain myself.

#39 ::: heckblazer ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 11:05 AM:

As it happens there's a great article in the New Yorker about strongest in the world competitions. Holley Mangold is probably the poster woman for this thread: "Five feet eight and well over three hundred pounds, Mangold was astonishingly quick and flexible for her size—she could drop into the full splits with ease." She's supposed to compete in the Olympics on the 5th. A lot of the men mentioned in the article are competing in The Arnold Strongman Classic competition so you can see pictures and bios of them at the official website.
Also deserving a mention is Naomi Kutin, the world's strongest ten year old girl. She's an Orthodox Jewish girl from Jersey who weighs 99 pounds and can squat lift 215.

#40 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 12:58 PM:

#33 Dave Fried: While not disagreeing with you at all about how "big strength" works, the examples you give also want size for ballast purposes as well as for strength purposes.

I just read a column from an original "world's strongest man" competitor, who bemoans this fact; because people have just got *so strong* for these events, they've had to up the weights they use for them, to the point where swinging them around and lifting them can no longer be done by small(ish) strong guys, because the inertia will have the weight control them rather than the other way around.

Football linemen (and rugby forwards, similarly), and especially sumo, the more the weight, the more strength the opposition has to have to control them.

I would guess that that's some of the issue with weightlifters as well; not only is "less weight" == "less strength", but "less weight" == "needs more strength to control an equal dead mass" due to relative inertia.

#41 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 02:46 PM:

Mycroft #40--It's my understanding that if two lifters top out at the same weight in competition, preference is given to the lighter lifter, as it's felt this would be a more difficult lift for them.

#42 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 02:48 PM:

My father, who was a high school and college weightlifter and wrestler, explained to me that the big gut on many weightlifters was functional, providing balance to prevent the athlete from tipping over backwards, without the necessity of developing more muscles specifically to that instead of actual lifting. The tradition of overweight and obese opera singers -- especially women-- was also functional, until it became common for women to work out and develop sufficient muscles to support the diaphragm. Also, because they could get away with it in a era that otherwise favored small waists.

#43 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2012, 03:54 PM:

Overall, Olympic athletes have become much more muscular in the last several decades, even if we discount steroids, blood-doping, and other artificial enhancements. They train differently, eat differently, etc.

I was looking at photos of gold-medal winners of the Women's Gymnastics All-Around and even there--where there is a fairly consistent body type--the differences are palpable.

Look at swimmers and you'll see even more dramatic changes.

#44 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2012, 08:07 AM:

heckblazer #39: I notice a couple of things about Naomi Kutin's case. Her father also competed in weightlifting... and both share the short-and-broad body type that also runs in my own family (also New York Jews¹). My Dad and I never got into sports, but the elder of my sisters is another story....

She did gymnastics and cheerleading when younger, and has explored a variety of sports over the years. Most recently, she's doing triathalons (she started this year, and she's in her 40s), and apparently doing quite well in state meets. This on the side from being a law professor....

#45 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2012, 03:35 PM:

Unsurprising, to me, is that my Olympic body double is a Japanese woman, Kaori Inoue, who is 1.82m (6ft) and 59kg (130lb). Though if I put on just a bit more weight I could apparently move up to marathon runner.

#46 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2012, 04:07 PM:

Jacque @29: as an inadvertent expert on Achilles woes, I'd say the current consensus is for eccentric calf-muscle training.
This means exercises that lengthen the muscle, rather than constrict it. It's the opposite of calf raises, call it calf lowers. Full details below.

Also note these exercises work well if the problem is in the tendon itself. There's a variant called insertional Achilles tendinitis with the pain appearing lower in the heel, where the tendon attaches to the heelbone. This doesn't respond well to the calf lowers. Instead the protocol involves lifting into the demi-pointe position on flat ground with both legs, then lowering the recalcitrant heel alone. This is what I'm trying now..

If the pain is currently intense and merely contemplating the proposed exercises causes anticipatory flinching ;-( then keep on with the RICE and also try a night splint. These are primarily used for plantar fasciitis. I'd give product links but the gnomes would get me.. a swift Google should get the necessary. The Strassburg Sock is a less-clunky version of night splints.

Full details, lightly rewritten from the sportsinjurybulletin below:

Stand on a step, with the front edge of the step touching the soles about one-third of the way from the toes to the heel (so that the heels hover in mid-air): body position upright, legs straight, and all body weight supported by the forefeet. Use the good calf muscle (the one not associated with a hurting achilles) to lift the body upward and plantar flex the ankles, bringing the heels up while the forefeet remain in contact with the step.

Remove the healthy leg and foot from contact with the step, the unhealthy leg remains straight while slowly lowering the heel of the unsound leg to below the level of the step. This is the eccentric loading.

Three sets of 15 straight-leg reps per workout, plus three sets of 15 reps performed with the unhealthy leg bent at the knee. Twice a day, seven days a week, for a total of 12 weeks.


From the redoubtable Uta Pippig's site,

#47 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2012, 03:02 PM:

Doug K @46: Thanks for the pointer. Will investigate further.

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